Perfectly Imperfect Parenting

featured on the essential life

The first meeting I had with my child was one filled with countless overwhelming emotions.    Cradled in my arms was this perfect, helpless individual that I now had the responsibility of raising & guiding for the rest of his life.

Fast forward a few weeks to a personal story.  I was an eighteen year old mum sat changing my infant son’s diaper.  Removing the nappy, a stream a pee spouted out splashing onto his face.  I quickly covered him to prevent more spill & as I cleaned him up, I cried.  The tears started as little wells & then turned to deep, shuddering sobs.  How could I take care of a child I couldn’t even protect him from his own pee?  How selfish I was to think I could be a good mom!

Fear & Guilt

That emotion I struggle with even to this day: the parental guilt.  This guilt is a natural reaction to raising a child.   It is useful as I learn my own parenting style, guiding me away from what doesn’t work to healthier alternatives.  But I have to constantly keep myself from letting it grow destructive.

In that instance with my newborn, the fear & guilt overwhelmed me.  Yes, the pee was gross but my child wasn’t harmed.  It was easily wiped away.  However, the corrosive belief telling me I was a terrible mother couldn’t be removed as easily.

This guilt can’t keep me from letting my son have the normal pains of growing up.  I can’t protect him from everything, & even if I tried, I would quickly realize how unprepared for life after childhood I’d left him.

Just as anger, sadness, & happiness are normal emotions of everyday life, so is the guilt we get from parenting.  Just as we learn how to deal with & experience the others, we have to find healthy ways to process the parenting specific ones.

Forget Perfect

Leaving the birth room without an official parenting manual, the one rule of thumb I’ve come to use daily is parenting is not perfect.  Despite mothers on social media seeming to have everything together, we can’t fall for those illusions.  No one has the right answer for every problem.  Parents usually learn on the fly, making choices that we may or may not pan out & is likely to incur the judgement of many.

Grace

I’ve not found a way to get rid of guilt completely.  If you have, please send me the link to order the tincture!  There is one remedy I’ve found that works solidly: grace.  Giving myself grace, the ability to have confidence in the choices I made despite perhaps realizing later there were other options, is a gift not only for me but for my little one as well. 

I could ruminate over every mistake: the divorce, the poor career choice, the forgetting to include a juice box in the lunch, whatever!  But the time & energy spent letting it fester doesn’t create a better future.  On the contrary, my child doesn’t get the confident, relaxed adult he deserves as a role model.  If my guilt is keeping me & my child from happiness, I’ve entered the destructive side.

One surprising side effect of my own guilt is the grace I now have for my mother.  I spent years upset wishing she had done things differently or thinking she was a terrible mother because of her choices.  But the truth is, I only knew my side of the story.  I don’t know what she was dealing with when she made decisions I disagree with.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I still feel irritation with much of my upbringing, but I also haven’t gotten to those ages with my own child yet.

Letting Go

I now realize the guilt & fear I have as a parent will always be something I live with, but in order to live happily, I have to let it go.  Giving myself grace for what I’ve done in the past & realizing no one is perfect can help keep me from letting these sometimes unpleasant emotions rob my son of a healthy parent.  Despite any choices I wish I made differently, I still want what is best for my child.  To give him that, I have to remain confident and happy with how we live our lives. 

Of course, just like I did with my mom, my son may dislike the choices I made.  He may grow bitter & angry with some of the ways I raised him, but again, just like I did with my mom, I believe he will find grace & forgiveness as he grows older with maybe even children of his own. 

When people said parenting was hard, I didn’t quite understand.  Now I can testify it is the hardest thing I’ve come across in life, but it is also the most rewarding.  For every laugh, there is a worry.  For every tear, there is a beaming smile.  I am grateful for the opportunity to share it all as his mother.